Entries tagged "art"

Affordable US cities for artists

“It feels like almost EVERY city has become either an overpriced “artisan” boutique or warzone. A by-product of the destruction of the middle class in this country. Here’s my personal list, based on the national median income of $50K (middle class) with $25K as the earnings that most successful artists can expect to earn from a combined day job and art sales.

Unaffordable to even middle class wages:

Affordable with a middle class income, art part-time:
LA, Seattle, Boston, Miami, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Portland, Austin, San Diego, Santa Fe

Affordable to work part-time in limited areas/situations, or outer suburbs:
Chicago, New Orleans, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Denver, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Albuquerque, Raleigh-Durham, Dallas

Affordable to art full-time, with high crime rates:
St. Louis, Memphis, Cleveland, Detroit, Baltimore, Wilmington, Houston, Birmingham, Orlando, Buffalo, Albany, Hartford, Cincinnati, Columbus, Nashville

Affordable to art full-time with low crime rates:
Louisville, Iowa City, St. Paul, MN, past the exurbs of cities is the last 2 categories.

Mostly every place is unaffordable or too dangerous. Commerce seems to be moving past their need for artists to displace the working classes, especially on the coasts.”

– from a 2013 comment on a conversation following Patti Smith’s urging of young artists to “find a new city.”

My gut instinct is more really teeny small places. Where do you think is a great place to live affordably as an artist? In what country? Do you live in one of these cities listed above? What do you think? Oakland is in the affordable art part-time list for now and for some it may be in the full-time wither without high-crime depending upon which section you live in.

Great things from my 2014

Writing every day on 750words.com – This site designed and run by Buster and Kellianne Benson is the best way I’ve found to write every day. It’s one of the best emotionally-aware designed sites I know. The feedback and nudges helped me a lot. Writing every day and coming through for myself has changed my life more than just about anything else that happened this year. If you join and want to follow each other for shared accountability (just one of the features of the site) let me know.

No more overhead lighting, and make everything warmer – Edison bulbs and other warmer yellower colours and this fantastic app which automatically shifts the color of your laptop screen by time of day help with minimizing headaches and helping sleep. Plus, you just feel more relaxed and strain your eyes less. I’m a middle-aged lady now. You will be too if you’re lucky. Everyone should be a middle-aged lady at some point. You stop giving a shit about a lot, but caring more about your eyesight.

Kenrick Lamar – This appearance on Colbert introduced me to him. Brilliance. Poetry. Theatre. A novel in 3 minutes. An opera? Performance art. Hip hop. Categorizing is the opposite of the point. He is a thrilling artist and art at it’s best grabs you by the heart and the hairs on your arms.

People are speaking up and telling their truth – #JianGhomeshi #Ferguson #BlackLivesMatter #BillCosby #RapedNeverReported #GamerGate #ThisTweetCalledMyBack #RealLiveTransAdult The Secret Recordings of Carmen Segerra the whistleblower about Goldman and the Fed on This American Life. Twitter has been huge. So has twitter (at least while it’s still a platform that lets you see who you have chosen to see, that may change next year). This is not things getting worse. This is things getting better.This is people speaking up and to each other, people who have not been heard in the main stream media.This is about ending shame and gaslighting and respecting our own experiences. This is about people seeing authority in themselves. This is about surfacing the epidemic abuse our culture has been mired in for ages and the role our silence played in enabling it. This is a big moment. Dominance is not a sustainable way for the culture and economy to continue. Dominance has roots in abuse. Dominance tells a damn good story. Dominance requires denial. I believe there’s a different way down deep.

“I Look Like An Egg, but I Identify As A Cookie” – I finalized the script to the show and I seas directed for the first time by the fabulous Kevin Clarke. Shotgun Players presented the show.

Transparent – The best television show I’ve ever seen. Also the most Jewish television show I’ve ever seen. This series shows the layers of character and family, the contradiction and the gray and in between of sexuality and gender. It shows where comedy comes from while showing you great comedy with profound heart. This show is like the best lover you’ll ever have. It will show you places you’d forgotten you wanted to be touched. Jill Soloway continues to be an inspiration to me. A conversation with her last year led me to think, for the first time (quite seriously) about directing.

I worked on a series that got nominated for an Emmy – The Future Starts Here is Tiffany Shlain’s doc series on aol. This is pretty amazing.

I got divorced. It finalized-after 4 years and 2 months-this year. I did a performance piece, Divorce Vows, at the notary when the paperwork got finished. I’m working on a full-length show called Everything Is Subject to Change that it’s part of and made good progress on it this year in workshops and performances at various venues and living rooms. Thank you TMI, La Pena, Stage Werx, Bruce Pachtman, Gina Gold and Rusty Blazenhoff. I also wrote this related piece people have seemed to like: So, You’re Getting Divorced?

Charmed Circle: Gertrude Stein and Company – I read this book and enjoyed the picture it showed me of life in France during this artistic era. It was a pleasure to see queer life at a time other than my own. One of the most notable things to me is how relentless Stein was throughout her life at promoted her work and perception of her as a genius. Most every artist in the circle promoted themselves a lot, including Picasso. She never really had popular success until she wrote something that was more accessible and about the social space she made for so many writers and painters. Everything, no matter how profound and beautiful in and of itself, needs someone to speak for it at times, or at least to offer it attention.

Morning Jew – I did a year of this video series with comic Katie Halper whom I enjoy talking with every week. We had some patrons support the show and the interest of an agent piqued. Mostly I just really like talking with Katie. It’s fun to make each other laugh. We are working on shifting the show to an audio podcast.

Instagram – I enjoyed it above all other platforms online. It reminds me the most of the old web at this point.

Wild – was the best film I saw this year. And we saw quite a lot of films. I did not expect this film to be so good. The adaptation of the book is terrific, the direction raises the level of the film and Laura Dern is just phenomenal: my favorite performance of anyone in any film this year.

Maleficent – is a radical feminist film. Shifting archetypes for young children is an amazing thing to do.

Robin Williams death – affected me greatly and that surprised me. It also showed me that, like it or not, I am a comic, even when I feel unsure about it.

Jerry Seinfeld – Perhaps the thing that surprised me most this year was that I went from someone who really had disdain for his stand up and didn’t think about him much, to a mild obsession to learning from his work and his approach to work and a complete love affair with his brilliant online talk show which I’m linking to a second time because really, if you haven’t seen it, you are missing out. I even went so far as to go see him live in Oakland. My strange Jerry Seinfeld distaste to obsession shift and what I’ve learned from studying a lot of his stuff is worth its own post or podcast episode at some point. The 2000 year old man is never wrong “we mock the thing we are to be.”

Della Fatoria – I ate there. It was so insanely good I made a point to get to Petaluma and eat there a few more times this year. The best bread I’ve ever had. Search out your own link if you’re motivated because I’m a bit torn and I flatter myself. I don’t want the place overrun.

I got paid to act – I never really saw myself as an actor, but I began to do it this year. I shot a few spots including a really funny Portlandia-esque take on Whole Foods for the supermarket. If you want to see it, email me.

Ryan. The Ultimate Lesson in Show Don’t Tell and a More Moving Computer Animation Than Anything Pixar’s Done.

Ryan by Chris Landreth, National Film Board of Canada

My girlfriend Mariko showed me this animation by Chris Landreth at the National Film Board of Canada the other day. It hit me like a rock.

It won an Academy Award and made one of those happy occasions when something superlative won. It is perhaps the best piece of documentary I’ve ever seen and one of the most whole expressions of what it means to make art and what it means to live in suffering I’ve ever seen.

It captures what is handed down from generation to generation. Its characters embody what our mental anguish does to us, literally. It shows what a hold money has on art and why art is oxygen. It has tenderness and such self-awareness and love. And it does all these things compactly in beautiful small, detailed gestures. It is exquisite storytelling. Chris Landreth has committed the greatest act of art: he has paid great attention. And he has cared. And he has not turned even one inch away from the truth.

A note: You will probably cry. I did. But it is the most satisfying and important kind of cry. The kind that lets you know that the very point of being alive has not been overlooked.

Art is not a quarterly business, says Rick Rubin. And me.

the structure of the music industry is rooted in a corporate structure. It’s a quarterly business, but art is not a quarterly business. At Columbia, if Beyoncé didn’t deliver a record one year, for whatever reason, that really affected the whole economics of the company. And it’s impossible to build a music company as if you were selling shoes.

Rick Rubin

I remember when the bankers came in to meet with my boss when I worked at New Line Cinema. They wanted to know about the second quarter films slated this year and then were going to compare them to last years second quarter. And I was only 24 and had only worked there for less than a year but it was clear to me that they had no idea what they were talking about. We weren’t making pencils, or as Rick Rubin puts it, shoes. The desire for predictability means the bankers want to decrease risk. But you decrease risk really differently in making art. Value isn’t created by avoiding risk. And as you would in a business, any business, you have to take the right risk to grow and benefit. And you have to keep taking risk to get good at it. And the knowing of art is not a thinking knowing. It is a feeling knowing. That’s where the value is.

Joni Mitchell is my art teacher

“One slap on the wrist for playing by ear and I went underground for 10 years.” Joni Mitchell played music when she was very young and then a piano teacher smacked her with a ruler (not an unusual practice at the time) when she began to play by ear at one lesson rather than “have the masters under [her] fingers] as she reported in her CBC interview. That shaming and discouraging attitude and most of all the thinking and quibbling that comes with that way of interacting sent her creative self and spirit hiding underground. She didn’t try music again for 10 years. That’s what I take her to mean by what she talks about at 29:00 above when she discusses why she produced herself. I used to sit at the piano when I was very young and play my feelings. One of my clearest, purest emotional moments was there. Then my mum heard me and laughed at me or commented.
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Toni Morrison explains Charlie Rose’s privilege to him. Slowly.

Toni Morrison patiently schooling Charlie Rose on privilege and offensive questions:

If I’m going to say when are you going to write about Black people to a white writer? If that’s a legitimate question to a white writer then it is a legitimate question to me? I just don’t think it is….As if our lives have no meaning without the white gaze.

The rhythm starts building into this at 2:47 but watch the whole thing. I especially like the raised brow when she says “journalist” to him. Her absolutely profound self-legitimacy of voice (among other things) is inspiring to me. Her standing in her self is beautiful. She holds the moment. She does not seek only to make him comfortable. She does not avoid what is at stake. She does not cede herself in explanation. She holds the space and it is the interviewer who must understand. Toni Morrison creates a very rare genuine moment on television. Video after the jump. I’m trying to keep the pages concise.

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Mike Daisey told the truth and lied to This American Life

Mike is the only other solo performer I know who didn’t “lock” his scripts besides me. Back when he first toured his first big hit Doing Time At Amazon he told me it was difficult to get theatres to allow this. It’s something I do because my shows are interactive and they’re designed to shift every time in part based on who is there. The Agony And The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs is the first script that Mike Daisey locked. He also gives it away for royalty-free performances Creative Commons style.

Locked. As in sure. Air tight. Even in his playbill asserting it is non-fiction. This is perhaps one of the reasons I didn’t go to see the show. But it is now the biggest story in solo performance / performance art (whatever handle it is people like to use to describe telling a story on a stage.) This is what I do ( although I spend a lot of time creating the space for others’ stories and participation). I have not stopped thinking about this revelation of Mike’s lying since I heard about it. And I imagine it will inform my own thinking about my own work for quite some time. The This American Life Retraction Episode in which he is grilled and dissembles and I would say performs, is absolutely riveting. And it is unscripted and all about Mike Daisey. Even when he does his best to say it’s not.

How do you know you matter?

I just got an email from a conference that made me sad. It was only two sentences long. It was a dismissal in the guise of being a favour. It showed me that I didn’t matter to this person professionally anymore. We are done.

It hurt. It still hurts.

When I started out there years back I was just doing what was fun. I never thought of myself as in any kind of “in crowd.” Some people told me then that I was some kind of miniature celebrity in a miniature world. I didn’t see it. But I did feel like I belonged. I felt like I was with my people: the kind of people who were excited by ideas and who said to the new person who showed up at lunch “come on here and sit down.”

This is making me re-think how I learned that what I had to say mattered.
It mattered to me that what I had to say or who I brought together mattered to others. A conference or a show or an audience.

I’m having to learn over and over that what I have to say or do has to matter to me first. it sounds so simple and perhaps brain-dead to you that this is a thing to know or to learn. But it is for me.

In every world I’ve been in: artistic, entrepreneurial, or political everyone wants to know what people like. The truth is that even in the worlds that consider themselves “indie” they care. For me independent performing, publishing, creating business was about being able to follow the creative impulse you have. It was about an environment that preached and modeled empowerment.

You *can* do this.

You are allowed to do this.

I’m the kind of girl who needed to hear that. You can always tell who else needed to hear it: they’ll say it to anyone else, anytime.

Great encouragers of others always need encouragement.

People are always talking about themselves. Always. Whether we know we are talking to ourselves is another story.

I’ve never been a big triangulator of creative talent. Either I like your stories, your voice, your perspective, your jokes, your vulnerability or I don’t. I don’t like it because someone else does (no matter what any database, social media platform or popular kids table might say).

It never made a lot of sense to me to like someone because they were popular. That was true in junior high and it’s true when it comes to indie art too. I’m not interested in someone because they’re alternatively popular. Truth is, the people whose work I often love are often dismissed. But I don’t love someone’s voice or work *because* they’re dismissed. I love what resonates with my heart. That’s all.

It’s easy when I think about other peoples’ work: Justin Vivian Bond, Patti Smith, WhoopDeeDo.tv , Paul Mooney. The kind of folks I want to interview for my news upcoming subvert podcast (you can also follow @subverting on twitter). I’ll be subverting the SXSW conference live with impromptu gatherings. Add me on twitter and foursquare to join. I want to see what’s in your heart.

So why am I afraid of what’s in mine?


Border Town Design Studio: Growing up in Niagara Falls

There’s a great Toronto-based independent design studio run by Emily Horne and Tim Maly called Border Town that I gave a guest talk in a little while ago. I also helped guide them and their participants through the Niagara Fallses, Canadian and American. I’m sure you don’t write the plural of Niagara Falls like that but I don’t care. I like the idea of Fallses.

They asked me to write something to coincide with their upcoming exhibit in Detroit.
I wrote this in 2011, I think: My story of growing up near the second greatest disappointment in American married life,” Niagara Falls.


Niagara Falls.

“People live there?” Forget living. I grew up there. Like an accident at the side of the road, it’s a place everyone knows about but no one can imagine staying put in.

Most border towns are known as afterthoughts; only a place because there’s been so much passing through. Niagara Falls the town has Niagara Falls the spectacle. It has natural beauty and power which were famous when natural beauty and power were celebrity. Then it was the ˜honeymoon capital of the world” when your honeymoon was the first time you were officially allowed to have sex. Then it became a place to be sure you got a souvenir from. It went from check list box on the to do list of the very cultured and moneyed, to coital, to consumptive. To live beside all this, within the man behind the curtain is to watch us make a place up. You can see the audience see and make the show. Because all tourism and spectacle is brought to the place by the people who visit it.

Meanwhile, The water never changed.

I was the kind of kid who couldn’t wait to get out of my small town. And it was both inspiring and extra cruel that the whole world came to visit where I lived. But they got to leave and no one would take me with them.

They’d ask questions like, “What time do they turn off the Falls?” and How do you say ‘Mother’ in Canadian?

It’s not that the tourists were all that sophisticated. They were just from somewhere else, whether that was Ohio or Japan, and that was enough for me.

Growing up in Niagara Falls, I sometime worked in my grandparents’ variety store on Clifton Hill. Clifton Hill was a steep, near the Falls themselves and lined with The Guinness Book of World Records, The Criminals Hall of Fame and Houdini’s, arcades, fudge shops and Rumors, the one dance club in town.

It was also the place for Cabbage Night partying (the place to get wasted before and after pulling pranks on the night before Halloween) and the place for the annual initiation night for the high schools fraternities and sororities. They’d all drink a bunch, wear crazy outfits and have to do things like put their hands in a toilet while blindfolded and squish up what they weren’t told was actually a banana.

On Clifton Hill anyone could see lights and tourists and the border. For me, there was also Richard, the guy who sold tours from a ramshackle wooden stand outside the store in which I worked. Richard was scrawny and had a mustache that was scrawny too. It went out to the sides and then tried to make it down to his chin. He wore dirty white pants, a little white Captain’s hat and a hook for a hand. He’d come in to buy cigarettes and always ask me to light the first one for him.

To me, Niagara Falls is Richard, Italian bakeries and a big guy in the high school hall cornering you to buy tickets to his cousin Louie’s Semi. Semi-Formal dances that happened at Polish Halls or Club Italia and ended, supposedly, at one of the plethora of cheesy, out-of-the-way motels. At least that’s what I heard. It was all very risky and seedy to me back then, immersed in good girl rule noticing and nerd-hiding at home with a book.

It was a grimy time and place and I felt that most when I recently returned to give a tour to the Border Town project. Everything I remembered most was gone. Where was Cyanamid, the giant chemical plant with the coloured smoke that my Uncle played softball in front of? What about the Shreddies cereal plant? Where was the resentment of small town life you used to be able to smell in the air? Where was the barber who drove a Ferrari and all the other Mafia legends? Where were all the prostitutes at the corner of Bridge and Erie streets? Where were the head shops full of bongs and black and white Rush concert baseball shirts? Where were the .38 Special tunes coming out of someone’s Camaro?

And what happened to downtown? It used to have a department store and lots of shops, many run by merchants in our miniscule Jewish community. But even after the mall on the edge of town took care of most of that, there were at least strippers. Where did they go? They used to be near the train station and the downtown and the river and the border. Now there are casinos and high-rise hotels just down the river road and I guessed theyve zoned it all away.

You see it all around you / Good lovin going bad / And usually it’s too late when you / realize what you had

When I got my driver’s license I would go “over the river” as we called it, but not to drink like everyone else; I went to an even shabbier Niagara Falls to buy the Sunday New York Times.

I would pore through the Arts section. And the Book Review. I wanted to be in bigger world. A more sophisticated one. And I found it. I left and lived in New York, Chicago, LA and mostly San Francisco. I was part of the scene when the web really got going. I traveled. But when I returned to Niagara I was surprised to see that I missed the grime and pollution and seedier stuff the most. Even the legends of mafia look corporate now. It doesn’t seem like the place anymore when you could find out who stole the tires off your car when you went to a local park and then had to buy them back, which happened to us when we went tobogganing at Firemans’ Park with my cousins.

The world has plenty of spectacle. The biggest gift Niagara Falls gave me moves with me. I’m still liminal: Canadian and now American too. I’m not really great at being any one thing. My look, what I do, how I see the world, it all sits on the border with my favourite word: both.

The best SXSW Panel: Collaboration is the way of the Net, w/ Allee WIllis Kenyatta Cheese + Mary Jo Pehl

This was my 13th SXSW and this was the most thought and heart-provoking panel I’ve done yet for me personally. The room was almost completely “old timers” (we’re not actually that old, just on the web) and so we went pretty deep, eventually ending up in a place that made me question whether or not money itself would change. WIl we really need it if we fluidly make together and continue the current vector of open making? How will we make it if not?

The audio podcastof the conversation. I’d embed it if SXSW would make that possible.

Since the web began we’ve been talking about artists having a career without a label and going directly to fans. We finally have examples of this working, so what does it look like? I sat down with successful collaborating indie artists: Allee Willis (September, Boogie Wonderland, The Colour Purple, Theme from Friends over 50 million albums sold), Mary Jo Pehl (actor, Mystery Science Theatre 3000, writer RIfftrax, NPR) and Kenyatta Cheese (Know Your Meme) and the super smart room formerly known as the “audience.”

The Net links almost every form of artistic making, so it makes sense that we’re in an era of increasing collaboration and creation in many forms. We discussed how limitations and openness serve us in an era of “personal brands” and how to deal with rights, friendship and creating the best space in which to collaborate. We dug into their collaborative process in making social experiences, music, video and comedy and find out how they’ve succeeded creatively and in every other way.

Highlights that stuck with me (as I recollect them. Not direct quotes):

•My name is Kenyatta Cheese and I am of the web.

• I don’t feel that I can own anything anymore – Kenyatta

• When AOL and MySpace came along I was so upset. But I learned to get over it. It’s ego. You have to let that go to create. The web keeps encouraging you to let go of ego – early social network creator Allee WIllis

•My focus is on the process – Allee WIllis

•What do you really need money for? Will the culture

•This conversation had a major impact on my personal theme that came out of this SXSW: the difference between celebrity and software culture. Post forthcoming.

How do you know someone is a good collaborator for you? Do you think of “everyone/audience” as collaborators and if so what made that thinking happen for you?

tag: #collab

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